In today's society, it can be a risky move for a man to show emotion. Men are often made fun of for being too in touch with their emotional side, and as a result, struggle to express how they truly feel.
Wives, you influence your husband's emotions, and your actions can either help or hurt your husband's willingness to share deep, vulnerable or pent-up emotions.
Here are four things you can do to help your husband feel comfortable sharing his true feelings:
1. Watch your tone
One powerful way to help your husband understand that he is free to express his feelings is to speak kind words in a gentle voice. Your tone of voice sets the mood. Avoid words that are harsh and argumentative. A loud, angry tone of voice could raise your spouse's defensive walls.
A shrill, critical tone of voice may make him shut down and refuse to share his true thoughts. A whiny, manipulative tone of voice could cause your husband to roll his eyes and give up on the conversation. As you speak kind words, in a gentle voice, your husband will feel safe in your presence. He will feel comfortable sharing his opinions and emotions because he can trust you to be with him, not against him.
2. Paraphrase his words
One popular couples counseling technique is called "mirroring." It helps couples break out of argumentative ruts and focus on what the other person is saying.
The pattern goes like this: listen, paraphrase back the words, check for correct understanding and then share your own comment. As each person follows the pattern of listening, repeating and checking for correctness before commenting, it helps keep the conversation positive.
This skill helps each spouse focus on what the other person is saying, rather than thinking about what to say as soon as the other person takes a breath. Conversations rarely turn into heated fights. Couples that use "mirroring" are able to calmly communicate, whether the conversation is simply to enjoy bonding together or problem-solve a disagreement.
3. Share your feelings too
Emotions can strengthen relationships. The friends that know you best are probably those who have seen you in a variety of emotions: anger, sadness, frustration, fear, insecurity, and joy. As you share emotions with your husband, your bond will deepen. (This is especially important when you are discussing differing opinions.)
When disagreements develop, take some time to really ponder on your own emotions. Has your opinion formed out of fear, worry or jealousy? Does your desired action lead you to feel joy, security or comfort? Own your feelings. Be careful not to cast blame on another person.
When you have discovered how you truly feel, share those insights with your husband. Explain to him how your opinion was formed and which emotions are driving your thought process. He will feel more comfortable trusting you with his true emotions if you can open up and share what is inside your heart.
Also, allow him time to formulate what he is feeling. It's possible that your husband doesn't know how to label the emotion he feels, so as you name your feelings, you are teaching emotion words that can help him.
4. Talk about your day-to-day lives
Make time for casual conversation in your marriage. Talk about work, challenges with your kids, friendships, the news or weather. Tell jokes and reminisce about your favorite memories. The more frequently you talk with each other, the easier it is to communicate when you disagree.
Sometimes couples stop talking in order to avoid fights. Avoiding a conversation heightens anxiety at home. Anxiety and fear breed mistrust and defensiveness, neither of which will produce a productive conversation. A pattern of daily conversations about the silly, the mundane, the joys, and the goals of life keeps a couple talking about things that will bond them together.
Frequently talking and listening strengthen a couples' ability to handle minor mishaps because there is already an established pattern of communicating.
Nicci Bontrager, MA, LPC-Intern, NCC practices counseling in the Austin, Texas area. On her blog, www.joyfulfamilylife.com, she writes about strengthening families, marriage, emotional health, & finding joy. She graduated from Texas State University.